ʽʽHi, I’m Benjamin Nunn – critic, gourmand and author of Ben Viveur. I like to eat and drink. And cook. And write.

You might have read me in an in-flight magazine, or a beer publication, but here on my own blog I'm liberated from the editorial shackles of others so anything goes.

I deal with real food and drink in the real world, aiming to create recipes that taste awesome, but which can be created by mere mortals without the need for tons of specialist equipment and a doctorate in food science. Likewise, I tend to review relaxed establishments that you might visit on a whim without having to sell your first-born, rather than hugely expensive restaurants and style bars in the middle of nowhere with a velvet rope barrier, a stringent dress code and a six-month waiting list!

There's plenty of robust opinion, commentary on the world of food and drink, and lots of swearing, so look away now if you're easily offended.

Otherwise, tuck your bib in, fill your glass and turbo-charge your tastebuds. We're going for a ride... Ben Appetit!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Would 'Salmon rush tea' be the worst pun ever?

I'm not the kind of person who looks at a menu, sees a warm salad and thinks 'Wow! Fuck yeah! Warm salad, baby! No way on God's own earth that I'm going to choose anything other than that bad boy!!!' 

And I'd guess that there aren't many people who are - possibly those on certain diets or who have overdone rich, heavy food over the last few days, but certainly not many people.

You just wouldn't, would you? I mean, it's not something that appeals in the same leapy-outy way that 'beef and ale pie' or 'chocolate gateaux' does, is it?

Nothing fishy about this - apart from the fish, obviously
And salad is supposed to be cold and crispy and juicy'n'shit, for, like, Summer days, right?

But stick with me on this one. Occasionally, just occasionally, you might want to eat something light, something different, something exactly like a warm salad of baby leeks and courgettes with pan-fried salmon in fact.

And you might want to know how to make one too.

So. This is a recipe that is quick, simple, relatively healthy and mildly impressive to the opposite sex *

And that, I think you'll agree, means that it has a whole lot of things going for it.

A small portion, arranged with wanky artistry, obviously, could make an ideal starter, but it also works as a main course, especially if for some dietary reason you're 'low-carbing it'.

And it takes no time at all to prepare or to cook. Literally no time at all. Well, not literally, but if you're in a hurry there aren't many things quicker...

* If you're a man, obviously. If you're a woman, don't go cooking this for your fella expecting a reaction and/or erection. Just do the fucker a big steak.

Warm salad of baby Leeks and Courgettes with pan-fried  Salmon

Ingredients - per main course serving

Salmon fillets, one large or two small - lightly smoked if possible, and with the skin on
Baby leeks, 3-4
Lovely fresh salmon fillets...
Baby courgettes, 3-4
Herbes de Provence
Black pepper 
Sea salt
The juice of a lime


Top and tail all your baby leeks and courgettes, then cut them lengthways in half - e.g. creating two long thin strips from each vegetable. 

(If you're trying to do it with full-size leeks or courgettes you'll have to improvise, but I wouldn't bother, frankly. Wait and get the baby ones another day.)

Now prep your salmon fillets by mixing up a little salt with a lot of black pepper and loads of Herbes de Provence, and liberally coat the fillets from every conceivable angle. Some of the coating will fall off - that's why you need a lot!

Heat a little butter in a frying pan, and fry your leek and courgette bits. The courgettes will char slightly on the edges, and the leeks will go stringy and caramalise - this is all stuff, so let it happen.

(Incidentally it almost always pays to use a good quality butter - I swear by the Normandy stuff - and this dish is no exception.)

When the vegetables are cooked you can remove them from the pan (leaving in any excess butter) and plate them up, arranging them artistically. The point of a warm salad is that you don't serve these too hot.
...healthy green veg - it's a winning combo
Now add your nice herby salmon to the pan and cook it evenly on all sides - although the skin side should be cooked a bit longer in order to crisp up. Salmon fillets vary in thickness and peoples tastes vary as to how well done they like it. 

My view is basically that if any bit of it still looks like sushi then you probably need to give that part another 30 seconds or so, but if it goes white-pink, you're starting to get into overdone territory. Either way, you want the herbs on the outside to form a lovely crust.

(There's nothing wrong with putting the salmon in before you take the vegetables out if you're going to want more than 4-5 minutes cooking time for the salmon and don't want the warm salad to get cold.)

When you're happy with your salmon, remove it from the pan and arrange it on top of the pile of leeks and courgettes on the plate. Pour over any buttery juice left in the pan (unless you're really watching the calories).

A squeeze of juice from a lime will complete the dish, and you're ready to tuck the fuck in! And there you have a relatively guilt-free plate full of goodness. (Oily fish is good for you, and if you use a smallish piece of salmon and go easy on the butter, this'll come in at less than 500 calories!)

Needless to say, a dry but citrussy white would complement this dish perfectly.

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